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Candlelight vigil

No one thinks this could happen to them. Yes, this is about losing a child. No one really knows what a parent goes through with the process of this unwanted journey of not having your child in your life. This is not supposed to happen this way, that your child goes before you.

I can truly tell you it is heart wrenching; I am one of those parents. My husband and I lost our son David now 10 years ago. You say “move on.” But wait, there is no book that tells you how many days you will go on the journey of grief; it is awful.

The pain is still overwhelming but changes with the healing process. Things you don’t want to say to parents in their loss is “Oh, I know how you feel,” because you really can’t imagine the pain. It is beyond belief of what you think you would go through.

Dealing with the grief process of losing a child is totally different feeling than losing a parent or sibling. That is awful in itself. This pain is different. You feel your heart is ripped out of your chest, you can’t breathe, you can’t think straight or concentrate on anything, you feel numb, you feel you are at the end of your world, everything you think or do feels surreal.

When you go to bed at night, you feel the emptiness and loss even more because it is just you and your thoughts; holding onto every memory of your child.

You wake up every morning thinking it is just a dream and then it becomes another day of reality. When you do finally feel yourself able to go to the grocery store or wherever in public, you sometimes run into people you know from your past and sometimes they ignore you. You can lose a lot of friends through this healing process. Lots of times, they just don’t know what to say or they are afraid that this may happen to them and go away from you not to face those thoughts.

It does not matter the age you lost your child; you lost your child and that is what matters. All parents want to talk about their child that is no longer here. Their child had a purpose of being here, had a loving personality, humor, faith, warmth and love in their hearts. Our children are not forgotten because they are not here. He or she will always be a part of our family.

Eventually, the grieving family will start smiling again talking about the memories of the child they were so truly blessed to have in their lives. As time goes by, parents begin to feel their heavy heart getting a little lighter and their thoughts and feelings change. It becomes easier to cope with the loss so deep in your heart.

Seven years ago, I put a letter out to the editor and wanted to start something to help parents to cope with the loss of a child because it is a different kind of grief and pain. Five women responded who also lost a child here in Napa. We together started a chapter here to help others on this unwanted journey. It is part of a worldwide organization called “The Compassionate Friends.”

You can go on their website and read all about it. We meet on the third Thursday of each month at Synergy- second floor, 7 to 9 p.m. Our gatherings are not meetings, very informal with lots of support and comfort. You can come with your spouse or just yourself. Everything is kept confidential and you realize when you attend you are not alone on this journey. You meet other parents with whom you may start a lasting friendship.

There is no charge to attend. You can talk with those who are new on this journey or have been on this journey for years who can give you good ideas on how to deal with different issues or feelings you are experiencing.

Every year, we have had our annual Compassionate Candle lighting, which is done worldwide. On the second Sunday in December every year, the entire organization has a gathering at different chapters in cities across the U.S. and Europe, light candles together for an hour, 7 to 8 p.m. in their time zones, which makes a wave of light around the world to remember our children who have gone too soon.

We did not have it here last year because of the fires, and unfortunately we can’t have it this year. Please gather in your own homes on the evening of Dec. 9, light candles for your child and remember all the good memories and share fun stories.

I hope you and your families will find some peace this holiday season, and for those of you who know someone who has lost a child, they need lots of love and hugs especially during the holidays. Our community has lost so many young lives in our beautiful Napa Valley, cherish each day with your children.

We as parents have a lot of new challenges to face that we never faced before but if we stay strong as a family, our community will be strong. There will be no meeting in December; the next meeting will be Jan. 17, 2019. For those who cannot attend one of our meetings, please call me at (707) 258-1623. I am here for you.

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Judy Nunn is the Chapter Leader of TCF Napa Valley.